Sitting on Grandpa's Front Porch
The Front Porch
As I have grown older I often find myself remembering those simpler days of my youth and like a modern day DVD those memories that were etched in my mind now over 50 years ago are sometimes inserted into my human memory player. Many of those memories revolve around the summers that i spent at my grandparents farm. It was a small house, rustic with a tin roof yet had a dignity all its own.My grandparents were country folk who had weathered hard times raising 14 children and had farmed and lived modestly. Like many of the farmhouses in our county, my grandparents old house had both a front porch and a back porch.
The front porch faced the barn and other out buildings. Grandpa's smoke house was the closest building to the house although I never knew of a time meat was actually smoked in the building which had become a precursor to modern storage sheds. Inside the building were old steel traps, cow bells, canning jars, baskets and small tools including the garden hoes that had all but been worn out chopping weeds on the rocky farm land. When sitting on the porch looking west Mount Pisgah was visible and below was Cathead and the Mud Creek Basin.
My grandparents farm was small and the fields had long ago been cleared for growing crops such as pole beans, corn, potatoes and cabbage. The fields were terraced and had wind breaks. The nearest neighbors were a good distance away. In those days the mountain road was yet unpaved and the gravel bed lent itself to dust during dry seasons. Road traffic was almost nonexistent and limited to the few who commuted daily to the cotton mill in Tuxedo where some worked. During the fall and throughout the school year a big yellow bus would pick up all the kids on the mountain. Riding that bus was a thrill in and of itself!
The mail man came six days a week and was always at about the same time. The mail box was at the cross roads and from the back porch we could see his vehicle stop to put mail into the metal box. Sometimes I would put a bridle on my Uncle Johns mare and ride up to get the mail especially if the two gals who were seasonal residents were on the mountain. Like any country boy, I thought the gals might be impressed with my ride! Babe a converted riding horse was slick and shiny and and strawberry roan in color was impressive.
As a boy who loved to read, I always looked forward to the latest edition of the Western North Carolina Tribune that came in the mail. Sometimes during the summer a neighbor might stop by to visit.Many times they would never get past the front door if grandpa was sitting on the front porch chewing his tobacco but pull up a chair to sit and talk. As a boy I enjoyed just sitting on the banister or a step and listening to the grown-up talk. Most of the conversations revolved around how high fertilize had risen and how crops were doing, if the corn had been laid by and how the ground hogs were eating up the bean crop and those damnable crows stealing the corn seed or pulling up tender plants. One neighbor who stopped by fairly often live about 3 miles on around the mountain. He had an old green Chevy panel truck with Jesus Saves painted over the windshield. He also was a farmer and grew pole beans which he took to the farmers market as did my grandpa and uncles and corn.
Mr. Gilbert was a big man and wore overalls and a baseball cap. I remember one day when he stopped by to sit on that old porch. In those days almost everyone who smoked rolled their own cigarettes. Those tailor made ones cost more. I watched as Mr. Gilbert pulled his tobacco pouch from his overall bib and a package of papers. It was fascinating to watch his big calloused hands and nimble fingers as he rolled a perfect cigarette licking the paper before inserting into his mouth. On this afternoon he had taken a twist of homegrown tobacco and used his pocketknife to add to the smoking tobacco in his pouch. He took a kitchen match from his pocket and lit his smoke tilting his head back as if satisfied in his accomplished feat blowing a stream of blue smoke into the air.
Mr. Gilbert and grandpa had a great visit that day. They talked about rattlesnake hunting, politics and told stories. I took in every word and wondered just why anyone would even want to go snake hunting. Those visits seemed to end all too soon but work on a farm is never done and chores lay ahead as one farmer said," farming is from sun to sun."
The sands of time caught up with all those folks but somehow they survived living off the land and enjoyed simple pleasures. Along the way the time spent with neighbors were moments that really meant something. My years as a boy and those summers on grandpa's farm yielded priceless memories and a heritage of which I am proud.